As children of immigrants I think sometimes we forget how ingenious our parents are. We probably forget due to assimilation, it's hard to avoid unless you intentionally opt to reject it.
I was recently on an Uber ride in Nashville, Tennessee, and I recognized pretty quickly that my driver had a Spanish last name. I’ve got a talent for spotting other Latinxs, I’m always on high alert, and this driver had a Latinx last name, so I asked him.
He was born in Boston, but his parents were from South American countries. They migrated here when they were younger. Then he said something I was not expecting: “My parents are crazy, though, so I have triple citizenship.”
You see, being an immigrant you get called crazy a lot. I get called crazy for not being familiar with a lot of fruits that are common in the United States and opting to eat “weird” fruits from my country like jocotes and nancites. So I always cringe when crazy is used when referring to natural human preferences based on place of birth.
Anyway, here was a fellow Latinx telling me his immigrant parents were crazy, to which I said: “There’s probably a really good reason why they did that.”
He replied, “Well my mom said that after September 11 she was pretty sure there was going to be a draft and she wanted to be able to protect me in case of anything.”
This makes so much sense to me! They were protecting him by making sure he
had triple citizenship and it was actually pretty ingenious. I left the ride thinking of
the many times that I’ve rolled my eyes at my immigrant parents because I
didn’t understand what they were doing for me.
When I started dating, my parents were very demanding of the first young man I had a relationship with. My mom always expected him to drive to me even though I lived far. There was a sense that she expected him to feel some sort of duty towards our family. If we went out and didn’t all fit in one car it was expected that he would also drive. This felt really intense and heavy and I resented the expectations.
Talking to my mom recently I realized that while she was still just dating my dad, the militia was looking for her brother during the war in my country. My mother, grandmother, and uncle went to stay at my dad’s family’s house, no questions asked. My dad’s family extended themselves to my mom’s family a lot considering they were risking their lives if they got caught.
But they did it because that’s what you do. So when I reflect on all these expectations that my boyfriends were given I feel naive for how I responded. I realized that they were minor compared to what my dad did for my mom.
As children of immigrants we can be so dismissive of the customs of our parents, it’s like we forget that they survived tumultuous times at the hands of their governments. We go around telling outsiders, "My parents are crazy,” not realizing that we’re perpetuating empty stereotypes that diminish and push aside our very real histories as immigrants. There’s power in saying, “My parents are survivors.” When we begin to uplift these resilient people in our lives we'll begin to understand so much more of ourselves.